Commentaries - September 2012
Instructions for the King
This is a horse: you may not ride him, nor even look upon him.
This is an armed man: you may not converse with him, nor even look
This is a ring: if it is broken you may wear it, but if it is whole you may
not do so.
You may not wash your body, but you shall be bathed in the night while
You may not cut your hair, but it shall be cut for you by a free man with a
This is a goat, this is a dog, this is an ape: you must not look upon them,
and you must forget the names for such creatures.
The same is true for beans, for ivy, for mirrors, and for the dead.
This is wheat flour: you may look upon it, but you may not touch it.
You must cover your head when you go outside, for the sun is unworthy,
and may not look upon you.
You may not sleep during rainstorms, and if your wife hears thunder, then
she is unclean until the new moon.
Upon wooden stairs she may not ascend more than three steps at once, but
upon marble stairs she may ascend and descend freely.
Her shoes must be made from the hides of sacrificial animals, and she
must attend to you when you lie down, so that the winds will not
None of this may be written down, for it may be forgotten, and it is not to
This tree is called the tree of good fortune, beneath which shall be buried
the hair cut from your head.
Do not look upon it.
I have built a machine to visit the stars.
I have built a machine to outlast the stars.
There is a glass ball inside a copper egg.
There are dynamos and turbines, Tesla coils and magnets.
There is a boy in Brooklyn, Wisconsin
and a boy in Eddington, England.
They are the same boy. There is a man in a hat
in Baraboo. They are all named Tom.
They are all named Dr. Evermor, which is now
their real name. Queen Victoria is watching
among the giant insects, the fiddle-shaped birds.
The stray voltage goes in the stray voltage
cages, all silver, red and blue. The music
will signal the ascent. This is the Overlord
Master Control, this is the Graviton,
these are the Celestial Listening Ears.
When you ask me what has changed my life,
I tell you motors, generators, compressors, transformers;
I tell you boilers, pumps, transmitters and flywheels.
When you ask me if I found them I say no,
I rescued them.
If you listen hard enough, you will see it.
Consider the case of David B., house organist,
who saw vehicles stuck on the plains of heaven,
their wheels spinning round. This was on
St. Cecilia’s Day, 2005. Consider the tragic
case of Harry Ashfield, a.k.a. Bevel. Consider
the condition of the river in each instance.
Consider the drought; consider the flood.
The earliest known record involves
the mysterious Mr. E., witness to
disturbances which have since been
corroborated in various desert areas.
Spectrographic tests continue to indicate
a wide variety of phenomena. Spontaneous
combustion, sudden outbursts of euphoria,
of euphony, viral outbreaks of bardic
scat. Flaming swords, swords tied
into knots, suspended by cords
to the accompaniment of suspended
chords. If you listen hard enough,
these chords will resolve. These
resolutions, these revolutions, turn very
fast. Tests continue to indicate that these
spectres may or may not be repetitions,
cyclic indicators of semi-permanent
crisis, as opposed to unprecedented spikes,
singularities, or the illusion thereof. Further
tests are indicated. Consider the case
of S., for whom reading Pushkin proved
unbearably difficult. Furthermore,
he simply could not grasp how the sunset
Inside the Ghost Factory
Inside the ghost factory there are many
small machines. They are very important
but they do not make ghosts. The ghosts
are in cabinets, though sometimes you may
meet them in open fields. No need to greet
them—they are shy and speak only with
the greatest reluctance. It has been said
that the living press down upon them, though
they press down upon us too, until we are
indistinguishable. At some point—
eating alone in a café, in a meeting at
work, shopping—you will realize this
and become part of the story. The discontinuities
actually count for very little. The off-duty
inspectors go home and watch TV. What else
did you expect? If anything had floated by,
they would surely have called in a report.
But now it appears that tensions have eased
They are hiring allegorists again.
They are hiring allegorists again.
A Note On the Photographs and the Forevertron
The photographs used in the design of Inside the Ghost Factory (Marsh Hawk Press, 2010) are of the Forevertron and related works by Tom Every (a.k.a. Dr. Evermor), a self-taught scrap metal sculptor from the area around Madison, Wisconsin. I first learned about Dr. Evermor around the time I began writing the poems that make up this book, and his work has become increasingly talismanic for me. Like Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers or the drawings of Martín Ramirez, other outsider art that I greatly admire, Dr. Evermor’s immense sculptural environment embodies a visionary combination of whimsy and sublimity; the myth that he has created about himself and his work seems to me a primal gesture of artistic rebirth, a literal rebuilding of the artist’s soul out of castoff industrial detritus and salvaged materials of modern life. Dr. Evermor’s art honors the spirits, both of people and machines, that inhabit the lost and overlooked stuff of the world.
More information on Dr. Evermor’s life and work can be found in A Mythic Obsession: The World of Dr. Evermor, by Tom Kupsh (Chicago Review Press, 2008), which includes a bibliography of print and online resources.
Honoring Stanely Cavell
MLN: Volume 126, Number 5, December 2011
Stanley Cavell and Literary Studies: Consequences of Skepticism, eds. Bernard Rhie and Richard Eldridge
[note Gerarld Bruns's review]
Stanley Cavell and the Education of Grownups, ed. Naoko Saito and Paul Standish
Fordham University Press, 2012
Stanley Cavell Philosophy, literature and criticism
Edited by James Loxley
Manchester University Press, 2012
Harryette Mullen –– The Cracks Between What We Are and What We Are Supposed to Be: Essays and Interviews
plus Hank Lazer's introduction to Mullen's collection & discount offer
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In the final issue of Chain — which I am thrilled to launch on the newly redesigned Reissues platform — editors Juliana Spahr and Jena Osman begin by sharing some facts about the magazine. Perhaps the best summary of the journal's output, I'd like to reproduce “Some Facts About Chain” in its entirety here. You can find the full issue — placing this segment in conversation with the contents of the “facts” issues of the magazine — here.
Some Facts About Chain . . .
Year founded: 1994.
Total number of pages printed: 3,712.
Topics . . .
1. Gender and Editing
3. Hybrid Genres (double issue)
5. Different Languages
7. Memoir / Anti-Memoir
11. Public Forms
Total number of people published: 898.
Number of women: 539.
Number of men: 359.
Average printing cost per issue, $4100.
Number of copies of each issue printed: 1000.
Average number of direct mail subscribers: 300 (although this number varies widely depending on how good we are at sending out those annoying subscription solicitations).
Average amount of money raised by subscription per issue: about $4000.
Average amount of private donations per year: about $3000.
Average number of emails received about Chain per year: 1804.
Average number of emails exchanged between Jena Osman and Juliana Spahr per year: 1309
Number of major editorial arguments: at least three.
Number of issues edited while Juliana and Jena lived in the same city: 3.
Number of issues edited while Juliana and Jena lived in the same time zone: 4.
Number of corporate jets and catered sushi lunches: zero. (Although we did hold our 2005 meeting in Desert Hot Springs but we paid for it out of pocket.)
Amount Jena and Juliana have been paid to do Chain: zero.
Original funders: Professors Robert Creeley, Charles Bernstein, and Dennis Tedlock; the SUNY-Buffalo graduate student association; the Council for Literary Magazines and Presses; the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts; the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the University of Hawai'i at Manoa SEED grant; various generous individuals who donated funds.
Institutions somewhat associated with Chain: SUNY at Buffalo, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, Ursinus College, Temple University, Mills College. (Although none have provided direct funding or administrative support.)
People who have worked with us on typesetting or editing over the years: Adam Aitken, Kingsley Amis, Charles Bernstein, Javant Biarujia, Manuel Brito, Nicole Brossard, Norma Cole, Maria Damon, Dubravka Djuric, Bob Doto, Thalia Field, Miriam Gianni, C. S. Giscombe, Ray Gonzalez, Georgi Gospodinov, Arielle Greenberg, Ernesto Livon Grosman, Karen Hannah, Lyn Hejinian, Emelihter Kihleng, Myung Mi Kim, Deirdre Kovacs, Joel Kuszai, Walter K. Lew, James Meetze, Nick Moudry, Traviz Ortis, Marjorie Perloff, M. Nourbese Philip, Kristin Prevallet, Joan Retallack, Catherine Schieve, Kerry Sherin, Ken Sherwood, Gary Sullivan, Jeffrey Twitchell-Waas, Edwin Torres, Cecilia Vicuna, Roberto Tejada, Marina Budhos, Nzadi Keita, Kerry Sherin, Dorothy Wang, Robyn Wilcox, Sara Wintz, Janet Zweig.
Languages included: Alibata, Arabic, Aztec, Cacan, Cherokee, Chinese, Creole, Cyrillic, Czech, Danish, English, Esperanto, Estonian, French, German, Greek, Guarani, Haitian, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Igikuria, Ilocano, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Kiswahili, Klingon, Korean, Kunza, Latin, Maori, Mohawk, Ojibwe, Old Norse, Persian, Phoenician, Pidgin (Hawai'i Creole English), Pohnpeian, Portuguese, Russian, Samoan, Sanskrit, Serbian, Serbo-Croatian, Sign Language, Solomon Islands Pidgin, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Tamil, Tarifiyt Teeline, Thai, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese, Vorlin.
Some other magazines with the word “chain” in the title that you should not confuse Chain with: Chain Leader Magazine, Chain Whipped Magazine, Electronics Design Chain Magazine, Food Chain Magazine, Chain Reaction Magazine, Supply Chain Systems Magazine.
First sentence of each issue . . .
Relation: Perhaps a good starting point would be to discuss my apprehension about editing. This issue of Chain continues an investigation into forms that are traditionally perceived as neutral or “objective.” Past issues of Chain have focused on the topics of gender and editing and documentary. We are tired of cyborgs. We are suspicious of mules (seeing them as sterile or as drug dealers). We worry about the over-hybridization of plants. This issue explores how things get made. This issue is about conversation. Dear Editors, I SEE words on my forehead IN THE AIR on other people on the typewriter on the page. This issue of Chain grew out of a conversation I had with Jena Osman last year at the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia. In late 1995 I gave up smoking, which put an immediate, temporary end to my writing. I’ve been thinking about your note re: Chain and I came up with something, one or two things really: NON-CONSUMER FICTIONS as a sort of play on “consumer fictions” and also as a commentary on the state of the art which is all geared toward consumer categories of genre . . . The topic for this issue was Cecilia Vicuña's idea originally. For the eleventh issue of Chain (we still can't quite believe we forgot to celebrate our 10th anniversary issue), we put out a call for work that addresses "public forms." While not the death knell for Chain, this is the last annual issue of Chain for some time.
— Juliana Spahr and Jena Osman, “Editor's Notes” Chain 12: Facts